Paris in Spring time, my beautiful daughter and a 6 Nations rugby match, what more could I want? True it wasn’t England, but I am something of a closet Wales fan, behind the men in white naturally! With no job to go to I booked a nice long weekend and arrived to glorious sunshine; I have this strange thing going on when in Paris where I do know a fair bit of the language but I’m hugely reluctant to actually speak it. I did however make myself understood when ordering an Orangina while waiting for my daughter ( I know how to live)
We had a very chilled 2 days before match day arrived, my daughter lives very close to Line 13 which goes to Saint Denis so we had an easy journey to the ground. It was clear that the organisers had forgotten that women like to watch rugby as the women searching were hugely outnumbered by the men, giving a much longer wait for us.
We were however in our seats in time for the anthems, which was a relief it’s a big part of the experience for me. I pretended to sing both, as my French is poor and my Welsh is non existent! Alexandra belted out La Marseillaise however, she started the match wanting her adopted country to win. I tend to always support the opposition in Paris during the Spring and the home team during the Autumn.
I’m going to make a confession early on, Alex and I left with 5 minutes of the 80 remaining, we wanted to watch the England game and my knees wouldn’t be able to take a long queue amongst lots of people. It’s something I’ve never done before and it’s why I’m now catching up on the final 20 minutes of the game on the TV. Those 20 minutes have been some of the most talked about in the competition, but first the part we did see.
It’s interesting to hear Brian Moore mentioning the likely cost of a ticket at £84, I wonder if he’s ever had to buy a ticket for the Stade, our cost 44 Euros, but this time round we didn’t really get to see a good game of rugby. It started out well for France as Camille Lopez chipped a ball over the Welsh defence, there was almost a battle for the ball between the 2 onrushing centres but Remi Lamaret was first to gather and he dived over the line for an exciting 5 pointer. Lopez converted the try and added a penalty to put France 10 ahead.
A stray arm from Virimi Vakatawa as Dan Biggar threw a pass to George North was rightly deemed a deliberate knock on and the winger was sent to the bin. Wales realistically may well feel aggrieved that a penalty try wasn’t awarded as North looked certain to score had he collected the ball. The card was the cue for whistling and boing from the home crowd, they kept the noise up as Leigh Halfpenny kicked the penalty then maintained it every time a decision went against their team. And there we have the reason Alex, the Francophile, switched her allegiance, the crowd were unsporting to say the least!
Halfpenny certainly had his kicking boots on and added a further 2 penalties before half time to bring Wales within a point of France. In all honesty they hadn’t looked like scoring a try, it seemed to me that every time something good was building the ball was spilled and possession lost by Wales. There was a ‘deliberate knock on in the second half by a Welsh player, one of the centres I think, he was lucky a card wasn’t brandished.
The penalty count was repeated in the second half, all 3 given within kicking distance for Wales were booed and whistled at by the home crowd, the more they did it the more perturbed my daughter got. It didn’t however put Halfpenny off and he took his team to 18 points. Camille Lopez had added a penalty of his own in an error strewn half. That left the score as we took off at France 13 Wales 18.
what happened next I have now seen on the TV and read about the BBC say it was ‘the most thrilling, nerve-shredding, energy-sapping finish in the tournament’s history’ I’m not too sure I can agree with that, it was out certainly dramatic and left questions around a supposed HIA substitution for the French prop, the validity of that has been questioned, but as far as the referee was concerned when a doctor tells him a player needs an HIA he has no choice than to allow the replacement.
George North alleged that he was bitten, the tackle where that happened was clear to see on the TV and North looked at his arm and the Assistant referee but he didn’t point it out to Wayne Barnes until a couple of phases later, 3 minutes later in fact. With no conclusive evidence Barnes was unable to take action. This was probably one of the most bizarre finishes to a game, I can’t see that a scrum being set and reset was thrilling. There was time for a yellow card to begin and run its time in extra time and inevitably with a virtual 20 minutes of pressure on the Welsh line France scored with Damien Chouly diving over the line, Lopez added the extras and France emerged as winners.
Neither team shone during this match and this loss left Wales in 5th with only a very poor Italy below them. I really hope some of the bright young players taken into the squad at the start of the tournament are included in this Wales team very soon.